Eden started the new year with the town’s first acreage to be preserved forever as farmland.
As of Monday morning, the Western New York Land Conservancy owns a conservation easement on the 170-acre Surgenor Farm on Sandrock Road.
The easement extinguishes development rights but allows the owners of the property to continue to own it, or to sell it, but future owners will not be able to develop housing or other non-agricultural ventures.
“This is a story of partnership and collaboration, a deep respect for a very special farm family and a strong belief in the enduring value that land preservation offers our community,” said Nancy Smith, Land Conservancy executive director.
The property, with a spectacular view of Lake Erie and Canada, is owned by William A. and Robert W. Feasley, whose family has farmed in Eden for more than 70 years. The family started a small vegetable business that evolved into a dairy business that included the Surgenor Farm. Douglas and Lois Surgenor owned the land in the 1960s, and Lois Surgenor served on the Eden Conservation Advisory Council and worked for many years to help preserve Eden’s farmland.
Smith said there were many late nights getting the paperwork together to be able to close on the $247,000 project Monday. A national nonprofit, the Conservation Fund, stepped in at the last minute to help with a bridge loan.
“The protection of this land under a working farmland conservation easement is a testament to the Feasley family’s love and devotion to the rich agricultural tradition in Eden,” said Reggie Hall, manager of the Conservation Fund’s Land Trust Loan Program
There also was $4,000 in funding from the Town of Eden, a private donation and a bargain sale of the development rights from the landowners.
Federal funding requires a 50 percent match of local funds, and as part of the match, the Feasleys accepted less money than the land was appraised for, Smith said.
The project was one of two announced in October to preserve farmland in Eden. Work is proceeding on the other parcel, the 90-acre Meyer Farm off Route 62.
Dr. Kevin O’Gorman owns the 17 acres adjoining the Surgenor Farm. He has been leasing from the Feasleys and described the preservation of the farm as “the fulfillment of a 50-year dream that the Surgenors believed in and worked for.”
“This is an excellent model for other communities that want to keep farmland available to grow local food and boost local economies,” said Diane Held of the American Farmland Trust.
Smith said other Eden landowners have inquired about preserving some of their property.
“My brother Bob and I are delighted to have our 102-acre Surgenor Farm be the first of hopefully many farms in Eden to be protected and preserved through a conservation easement with the Western New York Land Conservancy,” William Feasley said.
The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations.